Thursday, August 13, 2015

#50 The Concluding Rite of the Mass. Understanding the Mass and Its Parts.

The Mass is ended. The People of God are sent out in mission.

Recall the Four organizing Rites of the Mass: The Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist with the Communion Rite, and the Concluding Rite.
The Concluding Rite prepares to send the people out of the Mass on mission, to bring the blessings of the Kingdom of God into our world, "on earth as it is in heaven."
The first part of the Concluding Rite may be the Announcements. These are optional (for example, there are rarely announcements at a daily Mass); however, the announcements are an indication of what the parishioners, the faithful, are doing to serve others in the parish and in the world. Like a homily, the announcements should not be too long!
At this time, occasionally a Second Collection may be taken up, again for some Christian work or need in the community or in the world. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians mentions just such a collection, not for the Corinthians themselves but for the Jerusalem Church experiencing poverty. (See 1 Corinthians 16:1-4 HERE).
Then the Final Blessing is given. The Priest will say:
"The Lord be with you."
And all respond: "And with your spirit."
Like at the beginning of Mass this blessing is in the Name of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Priest: "May almighty God bless you: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit."
While giving the blessing the Priest makes the Sign of the Cross over the People and the People make the sign of the Cross themselves. Implicitly we recall our Baptism into the Triune God and the mission of our Baptism to bring the blessings of God’s Kingdom of Love into the world.
Occasionally a series of blessings may be given at this time. Then the Priest or a Deacon (when present) will say: "Bow down for the blessing," meaning 'bow your heads."  Then usually three blessings are given to which the People respond "Amen" to each one and then the usual Final Blessing is given. In this case the Priest extends his hands in the gesture of Blessing and then makes the Sign of the Cross over the People.
There is even a special form of Blessing given when the Bishop is present. After greeting the People the Bishop says:
"Blessed be the name of the Lord."
The People respond "Now and forever."
Then the Bishop says "Our help is in the Name of the Lord."
The People respond "Who made heaven and earth."
Then the Bishop gives the Final Blessing.
After the Blessing  the congregation is dismissed, sent on mission. The four options of this dismissal are :
"Go forth, the Mass is ended."
"Go announce the Gospel of the Lord."
"Go in peace glorifying the Lord by your life."
"Go in Peace."
The People reply: "Thanks be to God."
In Latin, the traditional dismissal is "Ite missa est" meaning "Go, it is the dismissal." But an alternative meaning has been given in the Catechism which goes further than  the original Latin word for "dismissal":
"[The Eucharist is called ] Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily lives." (#1332)
A certain number of people leave Mass right after Communion or before the Final Blessing and Dismissal. This is just plain wrong. As humble as it may seem, the Final Blessing and Dismissal have great significance. Now that we have been united to the One Sacrifice of Christ which we offered in the Mass and received Communion with Christ and his life, as lived in his Body the Church, we are given a blessing and a task to carry into the world for that week. Imagine an army leaving the Commander before receiving marching orders; or a class leaving before the Teacher has given the homework to be done until next time; or to leave Mass before Christ dismisses us when we have  no good reason to leave early except our convenience!
Technically after the Dismissal, the Mass is indeed ended. The Priest does reverence the Altar with a kiss as he did at the beginning of Mass. He then bows to the Altar and the Recessional begins, led by the Cross and servers. A Recessional Song is usually sung.

A question we ask ourselves: do I have a sense of mission as I am blessed and sent forth from the Sunday Mass? What is that mission? (See "The Eucharist as Direction" HERE)

Next Week: "The Liturgy after the Liturgy"